Iowa to opt out of the CDC's 2023 Youth Risk Behavior Survey
Iowa officials say they will not participate in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2023 Youth Risk Behavior survey.
The survey asks kids about their drug use, sexual behavior, mental health, among other at-risk behaviors.
The CDC has conducted the biennial survey, which reaches more than 80,000 students, over the past 30 years.
Iowa has participated in the Youth Risk Behavior high school survey for the past three decades.
Iowa Department of Health and Human Services’ officials said they have opted out of the national survey so they can focus efforts “to maximize the administration” of the state’s Iowa Youth Survey, which the state has conducted – also biennially – since 1999.
“We are reviewing the reporting method and how Iowa HHS and our partners can use the data from the survey to better support Iowa youth. By prioritizing the [Iowa Youth Survey], we can analyze and report data at multiple jurisdiction levels (county, judicial district, Area Education Agencies),” said DHHS spokesperson Sarah Ekstrand, in a statement.
More than 46,000 Iowa students participated in the 2021 Iowa Youth Survey, according to state data.
But child advocates said they’re concerned about the move.
Anne Discher, the executive director of Common Good Iowa, said the Iowa Youth Survey doesn’t ask questions about students’ gender identity, unlike the national survey.
“It's really the only one that allows us to see the specific needs of trans kids,” she said. “So we're doing away with the opportunity to really have fine grade data around health and mental health that includes trans kids.”
This question is important following the passage of several new Iowa laws that affect transgender kids, Discher said.
“What it looks like to me is we are going to make life harder for trans kids,” she said. “And then conveniently, we're not going to gather any data that would prove that actually the things we do make their lives worse.”
Iowa lawmakers recently passed bills that ban gender-affirming care for minors and bar students from using a school bathroom or locker room that doesn’t match the gender on their birth certificate.
Supporters of the bills said the legislation addresses safety concerns at schools and stops kids from receiving medical treatment that may not be reversible.
Opponents said that they discriminate against transgender children and prevent them from seeking gender-affirming care that is supported by major medical organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The CDC’s 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey for Iowa high school students included a question that asks if they identify as transgender.
According to the results, 3.3% of Iowa high school students say they are transgender.
The 2021 Iowa Youth Survey asked kids about their sexual orientation, allowing them to identify as “straight (or heterosexual), gay or lesbian, bisexual, or another identity,” but did not include any questions asking students if they identify as transgender.
Iowa DHHS did not immediately respond to IPR’s request to comment on whether they would include gender identity questions on this year’s survey.
Not all states participate in the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior survey. Four states – Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming – did not participate in the 2019 high school survey.
This year, Colorado, Idaho and Florida announced they would also not participate in this year’s survey.